Today I'm going to talk about the 2nd-most crucial part of the whole writing process: Editing. (The first is actually finishing the first draft of the story.)
Now, when you think of editing, you probably just think of taking everything you wrote and searching for grammar and spelling mistakes, words that don't work, and maybe deleting scenes that don't seem to fit. But there is a lot more that goes into the process. I'm going to focus on the CREATIVE side of editing, ways to enhance and move the plot in new ways.
5 Creative Things You Should Do While Editing Your Story
#1. FIND EACH CHARACTER'S VOICE AND DEEPEN IT
Well, not literally (or maybe literally if that's what has to happen, who knows?) But what I mean is strengthen characterization. There are several ways to do this, and the easiest is to focus on the dialogue.
Your characters respond to events in different ways. They all come from different backgrounds, so use that. Do they talk nervously about something? Do they get excited easily? Are they strict?
Find language that shows this. Someone who is outgoing won't use the same words as an introvert. Their moods will be different. Show that when they speak.
|I did say deepen their voice...|
#2. SHOW YOUR CHARACTERS MOVING DURING DIALOGUE
This is by far something crucial you should practice doing. Time and time again, while editing dialogue and trying to deepen characterization, I find myself making odd facial expressions and gestures with my hands, strumming my fingers or tapping my feet. Really anything.
Funny enough, I do this in Starbucks and get looks sometimes. But I'm a regular and people have asked what I'm doing, and pretend to understand that this is a necessary element. Because honestly, it is.
Pay attention when you talk to people. Your hands move, face changes, you lick your lips, tap your cup, twirl your thumbs....whatever. Pay attention: You do these kinds of things and don't even realize it. Show that in writing between different characters and you'll convey their mood through words AND gestures, making it seem more natural -- thus more relatable and engaging.
|"Heyyyyyyyyyyyyy, sexy lady."|
#3. CONDENSE SCENES
You're going to hate doing this once you see your word-count drop. Trust me. Embassy began as a 151,653-word novel, and in the first eight chapters, I took out almost 16,000 words. It's painful to watch 32 MS Word pages disappear like that. It is.
Now the book is 77,000 words long, as you'll know if you read The Most In-Depth Query Letter Advice on the Internet.
Condensing is important. Nobody wants to read long, extravagant paragraphs about the soft-fibered carpet the wealthy owners bought from India that completely complimented the sparkling chandelier hanging in the study. Unless you’re Ernest Hemingway, all readers need to know is that it was a red oriental rug and the owners were wealthy.
More importantly, describe through ACTION as often as possible. Strike fear into hearts, or make us cry. But for crying out loud, don't say, "how sad it was because he meant so much to me." If readers can feel the pain, they'll read the book.
|Errrr...when I said, "condensed,"that's not what I had in mind.|
#4. CREATE EASTER EGGS
I'm going to say this again because I love it so much. Editing a first completed draft is about one of the best experiences any writer can have. So, if you want to make an impact, create a surprise, or something like an Easter Egg.
What's an Easter Egg? There are a few types. One can be a hidden reference to something in the real world, like another book, movie, TV show, or even something personal to the author. Another type is a hidden meaning or puzzle within the book.
Take the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter. The inscription reads: "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi." Read that forwards: "I show not your face but your heart's desire."
That's just one example of dozens in Harry Potter. Google some others, they are AWESOME.
In my book, Embassy, I have Easter Eggs for Doctor Who, Harry Potter, stuff from my life, etc. The possibilities are endless.
#5. CREATE NEW SCENES OUT OF THIN AIR
Okay. You've written the story and you're editing it now. You come across a scene and tidy it up a bit. But take a closer look and let your imagination pour onto the paper: What can you write that will deepen characterization, push the plot forward, and bring excitement/suspense, while still fitting cleanly into the plot?
Just do it. Go. Start writing and create something new. For example: the Hologis Tournament in my book, Embassy. What'd I do? I took a scene where Glacia Haverns was throwing a holographic ball against a wall, and somewhere inside my brain, my imagination clicked. I made one of the characters comment on how Glacia had practically turned the Records Room into a Hologis arena, and then I rewrote the previous chapters over and over to accommodate this new sport.
Then I took it a step further: I sat down and wrote a RULE BOOK. I detailed how the game is played, the scoring systems, purging systems, stadium layout, team setups, and more. Finally, I went back to the laptop and typed a 20-page chapter where they play this game.
Doing this significantly increased the action and excitement of the book at a point where it was just beginning to drag. Boom, problem solved. And it was a blast to write. You don’t have to believe me, but people have told me they like Hologis more than Quidditch.
Your move, Ms. Rowling. And happy belated birthday!
(Click Here to watch a short 30-second CGI video about Hologis)
Give this a try. Create something that wasn't in the original draft and see where it takes you.
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